Society Expects In Edith Wharton's The Age Of Innocence

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Societal norms and expectations are being reexamined more now than they ever have before; questions that many would never have dared to say (and some would not know to think about) are being debated and considered. Society still influences a major part of daily life, but it used to have almost complete control over others’ actions and views. In Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, a restrictive society works to maintain the same traditions, and put its next generation into the exact roles as those who came before them. In the following passage, Archer is having a conversation with Winsett, an outsider of the New York society, who points out a fault of the people of New York and their monotonous ways.

Winsett points out that the potential of America, and specifically of New York, is “dying out” because no one is working on it, or trying to improve it. Archer reflects about the expectations of a gentleman, that they should only stay at their home and restrain themselves. However, without work, without innovation, without going “right down in the muck,” nothing would grow or stay in stasis–it would die out, slowly. The society Newland Archer is part of is almost his entire world, yet it is just “a pitiful little minority” without guidance, or anyone on the outside that cares what they do. His New York is not a place of blending backgrounds, lives, patterns, views–it is just “a smaller box” as monotonously planned as “atoms” (103). Archer’s society is not only in stasis,

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